The organized team activities (OTAs) portion of the NFL Offseason is one where things can get silly sometimes.
It's a point in time where everybody looks good, so and so is better than ever, and there is hope within 32 different buildings across the National Football League.
While OTAs are technically optional, they're really not. Anybody who is a competitor and a point of stability on his team is present for them. Obviously there are rare exceptions, but typically if you're absent from OTAs it means that you're not 100% committed.
These days it seems like Rolando McClain, who has yet to show up to OTAs, has other interests. We learned on Wednesday that McClain has been in Alabama with his children, and perhaps there's more to that story, but he is and has not been with his Dallas Cowboys teammates.
Rolando came into our lives through the just before the magnificent 2014 Dallas Cowboys season. In a season bereft of Sean Lee, he filled in valiantly and proved to be the Middle Linebacker we need (although not necessarily the one we deserve... that's Jaylon Smith). When Sean Lee came back in 2015 he proved that the Weakside Linebacker spot is indeed where he belongs as he was voted to his first ever Pro Bowl (where he picked off Eli Manning by the way).
With McClain temporarily, arguably willingly, out of service that means there is a gaping hole in the middle of the defense (there's a sentence we've said a lot over the years...). The Cowboys are working during OTAs and have someone taking the reps that would otherwise be Rolando's (you know, if he showed up or whatever).
Andrew Gachkar https://t.co/e1Vbp8WiRU
Can Andrew Gachkar Really Be This Team's Starting Middle Linebacker?
That's the million dollar question, isn't it? Technically it's the $3,375,000 question (McClain's 2016 cap hit, per Over The Cap).
Gachkar, aka The Gach, actually started one game last year for America's Team. It was the fiasco at home against the Philadelphia Eagles where, of all people, Sam Bradford threw a game-winning touchdown at the expense of our beloved Dallas Cowboys, JJ Wilcox, and Brandon Carr.
I'm not about to pretend that Andrew Gachkar is the reincarnated version of Ray Lewis. The only thing he's got in common with the Greatest Baltimore Raven Ever is his jersey number. For what it's worth though, the Cowboys could certainly do a lot worse than 'ol Andrew.
The fact that Andrew is the one taking the reps intended for McClain is indicative that he's the clubhouse leader to be the guy in a world without 55 (and Jaylon Smith still healing). Assuming Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens are your other starting linebackers this leaves the newly re-signed Kyle Wilber and last year's Training Camp sensation Damien Wilson as other candidates.
Gachkar had actually never even played the MLB spot prior to the time that the Cowboys spent in Oxnard last summer. He comes from a 3-4 scheme in San Diego, but his versatility is what makes him most valuable. He's been able to adapt to most situations and that, coupled with his size (he's an inch shorter than McClain albeit 25 pounds lighter), is what makes him a strong contender at the MLB spot.
I, and host Bobby Belt, spoke with The Gach last year on Cowboys Cast so I can tell you firsthand that the guy is all about work, work, work (not the Fifth Harmony kind unfortunately). I know that song says that you don't gotta go to work (x6) but Andrew does go to work. That's what makes him awesome.
While Rolando McClain is tending to family business (a common occurrence during his days in the Blue & Silver) Gachkar is getting invaluable time with one of the most underrated coaches in the NFL - Matt Eberflus.
Let's not forget that beyond his inability to actually show up for work, Rolando McClain is sometimes forbidden to show up to work. Last year he was suspended for the first four games of the season thanks to a failed drug test. His on, and off, the field drama certainly doesn't fit Head Coach Jason Garret's "Right Kind Of Guy" mantra that he famously preaches.
Andrew Gachkar does.
Hopefully The Gach can make the most of these OTAs and the offseason opportunities that present themselves to him. The fact that he's willing to at least try is what already has him leaps and bounds ahead of Rolando McClain.
What do you think? Should Gachkar be given a legitimate shot to start at Middle Linebacker if Rolando McClain keeps this up? Let us know! Comment below, Email me at RJ@RJOchoaShow.com, or Tweet to me at @rjochoa!
Cowboys Will Tag DeMarcus Lawrence; What’s the Plan?
February 20 is an important day for NFL clubs this year. Why? It's the first day in which teams can franchise tag any player. Since 2015, when the Dallas Cowboys tagged Dez Bryant before they were able to work out a long-term deal, Jerry Jones & Co. haven't used the franchise tag. In 2018, though, that will change.
DeMarcus Lawrence just played his best season yet in 2017, and he's looking to get paid big time. Through three years, he had been able to rack up nine sacks, 52 tackles and three forced fumbles. In just 2017, he sacked opposing quarterbacks 14.5 times, had 35 tackles and managed to force four fumbles.
Not only did Lawrence look like an elite pass rusher, but he also improved as a run defender a lot. The Cowboys have been looking for a "War Daddy" for a long, long time and Lawrence seems to be the answer for this football team.
After such a big year, one would expect the Cowboys to sign him to a multi-year enormous contract. But there's a catch. Lawrence failed to remain healthy early in his career and really didn't make as much of an impact until last season.
There's no question that D-Law will be wearing a star come the 2018 NFL season, but will he be doing it under a long-term deal or under a franchise tag?
Cowboys will not place franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence tomorrow as that window opens but will do so by March 6 w/ understanding the goal is to reach a long-term deal. Both sides have until July 16 to make that happen.
For now, according to David Moore from Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence with the objective of getting a deal done in July. The tag however, is not expected to be placed as soon as possible.
In 2015, the Cowboys didn't place the franchise tag on Dez Bryant until the final deadline day. This year's deadline is March 6th, so it may be two weeks before they make it official with DeMarcus Lawrence. #CowboysNation #DallasCowboys
What would franchise tagging DeMarcus Lawrence mean for this team?
First of all, they'd make sure he doesn't hit free agency in March. This gives the front office time to get to work and restructure players' contracts if they have to in order to open up as much cap space as they can before giving him a deal.
It's worth mentioning as well, cap savings from players who are designated as post-June 1 cuts will already be available. If you want to be more familiarized with the Cowboys' cap situation, I highly recommend you read John Williams' deep dive on the matter.
It'll continue to be a very interesting story for this offseason, as handing a franchise tag to a player tends to become a non-friendly situation for both parties. Let's hope that's not the case for the Cowboys and Lawrence this year and that everything works out fine.
Here at Inside The Star, we'll continue updating you and the rest of Cowboys Nation throughout the offseason.
Watch: Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith Goes Bowling for First Time Since College Injury
Dallas Cowboys Linebacker Jaylon Smith did not just defy all odds and return to normalcy in 2017, starting as the Cowboys' middle linebacker for a full 16 games. He became one of the team's and NFL's brightest success stories, earning the right to celebrate everyday activities returning to his life - as football did this season.
This is exactly what Jaylon Smith did on Twitter Friday afternoon, posting a Snapchat video of himself bowling. The caption on Twitter adds that Smith was enjoying his time at the lanes for the first time in two years.
It was January 1st, 2016 when Jaylon Smith's injury in the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame changed his outlook forever. In that moment, Smith went from a projected top ten pick in the 2016 NFL Draft to a LB that would need a team to take a chance on him - and be patient.
The Dallas Cowboys proved to be that team, using the 34th overall pick on the Notre Dame star and supporting his efforts to return to the field from day one. The entire Cowboys' organization was rewarded by Smith remarkably playing every game this season, inspired by his constant determination to do just that.
So, a normal offseason for Jaylon Smith is anything but right now. Still battling the drop foot condition (one that is reportedly healing well and "fading") which limits his movement ability in the lower body, Smith is a normal Dallas Cowboys football player from this point forward.
He can say he's already defined all odds, can expect to take an even bigger stride forward in 2018, and Jaylon Smith can go bowling again. You can't help but be happy for #54.
Dak Prescott’s Accuracy Stands Out in Final 2017 Stats
2017 was a season that left the Dallas Cowboys with a ton of questions to think about. Dez Bryant's contract, Sean Lee and Tyron Smith's availability, and the future of DeMarcus Lawrence and David Irving are some of those questions.
But there's another more pressing question for the Cowboys. How can they get the most out of Quarterback Dak Prescott and avoid another struggling year for him?
Also, what if he has another rough year? At what point does quarterback become a position that needs to be evaluated if he continues to struggle?
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that will be the case. In fact, I have a lot of faith in Dak. I think he's shown a lot to be excited about and I definitely believe there's a "quarterback curve" in the NFL. Hopefully, #4 finds a way to get back on track in 2018.
A reason to be optimistic about Prescott's future is an impressive stat from NFL Next Gen Stats. Turns out, Dak Prescott ranked first in the NFL in "tight window throws" completion percentage with 45.8%.
According to Matt Harmon from NFL.com, a "tight window throw" is defined as a pass in which the intended receiver has less than a yard of separation from the defender.
Dak Prescott is far from a perfect quarterback and he's constantly bashed about his throwing accuracy. Just recently, he took part in a passing competition with David Carr before the NFL Honors and well... it's fair to say Carr completely beat him.
David Carr 6, Dak Prescott 1 pic.twitter.com/rV532Q3Cob
— uSTADIUM (@uSTADIUM) 6 de febrero de 2018
Cowboys Twitter was anything but forgiving for the young quarterback, but at the end of the day, I'm not sure a casual passing competition at an event like that one is the way you judge an NFL starting quarterback who has a 22-10 record in his career.
Dak has a long way to go before being considered an excellent quarterback in the league, but a bad season like 2017 doesn't mean it's the end of his career and that the Dallas Cowboys should start Cooper Rush over him.
It's not the first quarterback who struggles one year and he won't be the last one to bounce back from one. As of right now, Dak Prescott rightfully is the Dallas Cowboys QB1. Hopefully he has a better year next season.
Want to help make Inside The Star better?
We’re collecting feedback from our readers about the site. It only takes <2 minutes to complete, and can be done from any device.
Don’t worry, your information will not be shared with anyone but me (Bryson T.).
NFL Draft2 weeks ago
Cowboys Mock Draft: Dallas Adds Starters At 3 Positions
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Deep Dive: Inside the Dallas Cowboys’ 2018 Salary Cap
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Dallas Cowboys Sign Converted QB Jason Thompson to Play Safety
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Cowboys CB Marquez White Could Emerge in 2018
NFL Draft1 week ago
Star Defensive Talent Falls to Cowboys in Latest Round of Mock Drafts
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Blaine Gabbert Could Provide QB2 Competition for Cowboys
NFL Draft2 weeks ago
How Much Input Will Kris Richard Have in Cowboys Draft?
NFL Draft5 days ago
The 1 Player Cowboys Should Consider Trading Up For